What have you achieved today? What if the answer was…not a whole lot? Would you feel guilty or bad?
For many of us, we want to do more. We want to say yes to new opportunities. We want to get smarter and stronger, so we can take on that extra project at work or run that extra mile.
Saying yes more often has value. It can add fulfillment and meaning to our lives and help us achieve our goals and have new experiences.
But what happens when busy-ness becomes a way of life rather than a tool to achieve our dreams?
This is the reason I recommend my students attend a gentle yoga retreat.
In this article I’ll outline why I think it’s so important for yoga students to attend a gentle yoga retreat!
Savasana at a gentle yoga retreat with Lucia Yoga
Even in yoga class, I see people striving to do more. Students Look around at what others are doing or try to push deeper into a pose, even when it’s not right for their bodies. It makes sense. Sometimes we need to push our limits. To leave our comfort zones and work towards what we want in life. But when that sense overpowers the sense of joy in the present, it can become a stress creator rather than a stress detractor.
I used to be super competitive. I was a competitive swimmer and played on almost every sports team at my school. Not only did I want to win, I wanted to be better than my old self. And it wasn’t only sports, I was near impossible to play games with. I prided myself on being ambitious and wanting more out of life. I always had a plan of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I didn’t want to let anything get in my way (and when my health eventually got in my way, I resented it for years, rather than taking it as the call for help that it was).
When I got my first job, I wore busy-ness like a badge. You worked 12 hours yesterday? I worked 14. You have 200 emails in your inbox? I have more.
But then I became ill. And my doctor recommended a yoga and meditation course for me.
I remember learning about one of the ‘rules’ of mindfulness as being non-striving. I thought I’d just ignore that one and carry on with the rest. Goal setting was a part of who I was. From the 10 year old who made a chart of all my goal times for swimming to the young adult planning my career, goal setting was just kind of what I was about.
But the more I practiced and studied mindfulness the more I saw the benefit in non-striving. To be honest, all that striving was stressing me out! Because the outcomes were out of my control. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force my hamstrings to lengthen enough to touch my toes. I couldn’t force my body to lose weight or gain muscle, I couldn’t will someone to hire me for a job. All I could control was my own actions and the way I built my life and habits.
Slowly the journey became more important than the outcome, and my approach to the journey changed completely.
I went on a gentle yoga retreat and met others with the same goals as me. They were working on non-striving as well. Meeting a community of likeminded peers really helped me on my journey to wellness (and you can get more information about joining our gentle yoga retreat here).
I started tuning in to what my body needed, rather than basing my choices on what I wanted to happen. So while I loved the feeling of adrenaline from a more vigorous yoga class, sometimes what I needed was a yin or restorative class. At times I needed to sit in meditation. Other times I didn’t need to do anything at all, I needed to namastay in bed.
I found, to my surprise, that doing less was really hard. When I didn’t have the busy-ness to occupy my mind, I had to be alone with myself. With my thoughts and with my needs. And it wasn’t always pretty. Being alone with your thoughts can be scary. Things you haven’t thought about or felt in years can rise to the surface. Yet it helped me to become a stronger, healthier, and more resilient person.
I realised self-care can be doing less. It doesn’t have to be going to the gym or cooking an elaborate meal. It can be sitting in meditation and letting someone else cook for you. if can be leaving work early one day to sit on the couch and read your book or watch your favourite film. It can be blowing off your diet every now and then to try a fantastic new restaurant, it can even mean skipping your Sunday yoga class to spend time with family and friends.
It’s a challenge being alone with our thoughts. With our bodies. To feel what they really need. But once you open those channels of communication, so much information will come flooding in.
It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you and to make space for those directions in life.
Going on a gentle yoga retreat is a wonderful way to focus on creating a regular yoga practice. Free from the distractions of daily life, you can open up your mind to understand what your body needs, and to play with the feeling of doing less.
So when you’re ready to commit to a yoga practice by joining a gentle yoga retreat, think about the journey rather than the outcome. Think about doing less. Create a path for yourself with choice. The choice to practice self-care and to give your body what it needs, weather that’s an invigorating and strengthening vinyasa class or a relaxing and calm yin class. Then you will be ready for your yoga retreat, your best holidays ever!